3 Artemis Fowl

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3 Artemis Fowl

  1. 1. www.intexblogger.com
  2. 2. NOT FOR SALE This PDF File was created for educational, scholarly, and Internet archival use ONLY. from this text or its distribution. With utmost respect and courtesy to the author, NO money or profit will ever be made for more e-books, visit www.intexblogger.com
  3. 3. Artemis Fowl #3: THE ETERNITY CODE by Eoin Colfer
  4. 4. PROLOGUE EXCERPT FROM ARTEMIS FOWL'S DIARY. DISK 2. ENCRYPTED. FOR the past two years my business enterprises have thrived without parental interference. In this time, I have sold the Pyramids to a Western businessman, forged and auctioned off the lost diaries of Leonardo da Vinci and separated the fairy People from a large portion of their precious gold. But my freedom to plot is almost at an end. As I write, my father lies in a hospital bed in Helsinki, where he recovers after a two-year imprisonment by the Russian Mafiya. He is still unconscious following his ordeal, but he will awaken soon and retake control of the Fowl finances. With two parents resident in Fowl Manor, it will be impossible for me to conduct my various illegal ventures undetected. Previously this would not have been a problem as my father was a bigger crook than me, but Mother is determined that the Fowls are going straight. However, there is time for one last job. Something that my mother would not approve of. I don't think the fairy folk would like it much either. So I shall not tell them.
  5. 5. PART I: ATTACK CHAPTER I:THE CUBE EN FIN, KNIGHTSBRIDGE, LONDON ARTEMIS Fowl was almost content. His father would be discharged from Helsinki's University Hospital any day now. He himself was looking forward to a delicious late lunch at En Fin, a London seafood restaurant, and his business contact should arrive any moment. All according to plan. His bodyguard, Butler, was not quite so relaxed. But then again he was never truly at ease – one did not become one of the world's deadliest men by dropping one's guard. The giant Eurasian flitted between tables in the Knightsbridge bistro, positioning the usual security items and clearing exit routes. 'Are you wearing the earplugs?' he asked his employer. Artemis sighed deeply. 'Yes, Butler. Though I hardly think we are in danger here. It's a perfectly legal business meeting in broad daylight, for heaven's sake.' The earplugs were actually sonic filter sponges, cannibalized from fairy Lower Elements Police helmets. Butler had obtained the helmets, along with a treasure trove of fairy technology, over a year previously when one of Artemis's schemes pitted him against a fairy SWAT team. The sponges were grown in LEP labs, and had tiny porous membranes that sealed automatically when decibel levels surpassed safety standards. 'Maybe so, Artemis, but the thing about assassins is that they like to catch you unawares.' 'Perhaps,' replied Artemis, perusing the menu's entree section. 'But who could possibly have a motive to kill us?' Butler shot one of the half-dozen diners a fierce glare, just in case she was planning something. The woman must have been at least eighty. 'They might not be after us. Remember, Jon Spiro is a powerful man. He put a lot of companies out of business. We could be caught in a crossfire.
  6. 6. Artemis nodded. As usual, Butler was right, which explained why they were both still alive. Jon Spiro, the American he was meeting, was just the kind of man to attract assassins' bullets. A successful IT billionaire, with a shady past and alleged mob connections. Rumour had it that his company, Fission Chips, had made it to the top on the back of stolen research. Of course, nothing was ever proved – not that Chicago's district attorney hadn't tried. Several times. A waitress wandered over, giving them a dazzling smile. 'Hello there, young man. Would you like to see the children's menu?' A vein pulsed in Artemis's temple. 'No, mademoiselle, I would not like to see the children's menu. I have no doubt the children's menu itself tastes better than the meals on it. I would like to order a la carte. Or don't you serve fish to minors?' The waitress's smile shrank by a couple of molars. Artemis's vocabulary had that effect on most people. Butler rolled his eyes. And Artemis wondered who would want to kill him. Most of the waiters and tailors in Europe, for a start. 'Yes, sir,' stammered the unfortunate waitress. 'Whatever you like.' 'What I would like is a medley of shark and swordfish, pan-seared, on a bed of vegetables and new potatoes.' 'And to drink?' 'Spring water. Irish, if you have it. And no ice, please, as your ice is no doubt made from tap water, which rather defeats the purpose of spring water.' The waitress scurried to the kitchen, relieved to escape from the pale youth at table six. She'd seen a vampire movie once. The undead creature had the very same hypnotic stare. Maybe the kid spoke like a grown-up because he was actually five hundred years old. Artemis smiled in anticipation of his meal, unaware of the consternation he'd caused. 'You're going to be a big hit at the school dances,' Butler commented. 'Pardon?'
  7. 7. 'That poor girl was almost in tears. It wouldn't hurt you to be nice occasionally.' Artemis was surprised. Butler rarely offered opinions on personal matters. 'I don't see myself at school dances, Butler.' 'Dancing isn't the point. It's all about communication.' 'Communication?' scoffed young Master Fowl. 'I doubt there is a teenager alive with a vocabulary equal to mine.' Butler was about to point out the difference between talking and communicating when the restaurant door opened. A small tanned man entered, flanked by a veritable giant. Jon Spiro and his security. Butler bent low to whisper in his charge's ear. 'Be careful, Artemis. I know the big one by reputation.' Spiro wound through the tables, arms outstretched. He was a middle-aged American, thin as a javelin, and barely taller than Artemis himself. In the eighties, shipping had been his thing; in the nineties he made a killing in stocks and shares. Now, it was communications. He wore his trademark white linen suit, and there was enough jewellery hanging from his wrists and fingers to gold leaf the Taj Mahal. Artemis rose to greet his associate. 'Mister Spiro, welcome.' 'Hey, little Artemis Fowl. How the hell are you?' Artemis shook the man's hand. His jewellery jangled like a rattlesnake's tail. 'I am well. Glad you could come.' Spiro took a chair. 'Artemis Fowl calls with a proposition: I would've walked across broken glass to be here.' The bodyguards appraised each other openly. Apart from their bulk, the two were polar opposites. Butler was the epitome of understated efficiency. Black suit, shaven head, as inconspicuous as it was possible to be at almost seven feet tall. The newcomer had bleached blond hair, a cut-off T-shirt and silver pirate rings in both ears. This was not a man who wanted to be forgotten, or ignored.
  8. 8. 'Arno Blunt,' said Butler. 'I've heard about you.' Blunt took up his position at Jon Spiro's shoulder. 'Butler. One of the Butlers,' he said, in a New Zealand drawl. 'I hear you guys are the best. That's what I hear. Let's hope we don't have to find out.' Spiro laughed. It sounded like a box of crickets. 'Arno, please. We are among friends here. This is not a day for threats.' Butler was not so sure. His soldier's sense was buzzing like a nest of hornets at the base of his skull. There was danger here. 'So, my friend. To business,' said Spiro, fixing Artemis with his close-set dark eyes. 'I've been salivating all the way across the Atlantic. What have you got for me?' Artemis frowned. He'd hoped business could wait until after lunch. 'Wouldn't you like to see a menu?' 'No. I don't eat much any more. Pills and liquids mostly. Gut problems.' 'Very well,' said Artemis, laying an aluminium briefcase on the table. 'To business then.' He flipped the case's lid, revealing a red cube the size of a minidisc player, nestling in blue foam. Spiro cleaned his spectacles with the tail end of his tie. 'What am I seeing here, kid?' Artemis placed the shining box on the table. 'The future, Mister Spiro. Ahead of schedule.' Jon Spiro leaned in, taking a good look. 'Looks like a paperweight to me.' Arno Blunt sniggered, his eyes taunting Butler. 'A demonstration then,' said Artemis, picking up the metal box. He pressed a button and the
  9. 9. gadget purred into life. Sections slid back to reveal speakers and a screen. 'Cute,' muttered Spiro. 'I flew three thousand miles for a micro-TV?' Artemis nodded. 'A micro-TV. But also a verbally controlled computer, a mobile phone, a diagnostic aid. This little box can read any information on absolutely any platform, electrical or organic. It can play videos, laserdiscs, DVDs; go online, retrieve e-mail, hack any computer. It can even scan your chest to see how fast your heart's beating. Its battery is good for two years and, of course, it's completely wireless.' Artemis paused, to let it sink in. Spiro's eyes seemed huge behind his spectacles. 'You mean, this box . . .?' 'Will render all other technology obsolete. Your computer plants will be worthless.' The American took several deep breaths. 'But how . . . how?' Artemis flipped the box over. An infrared sensor pulsed gently on the back. 'This is the secret. An omni-sensor. It can read anything you ask it to. And if the source is programmed in, it can piggyback any satellite you choose.' Spiro wagged a finger. 'But that's illegal, isn't it?' 'No, no,' said Artemis, smiling. 'There are no laws against something like this. And there won't be for at least two years after it comes out. Look how long it took to shut down Napster.' The American rested his face in his hands. It was too much. 'I don't understand. This is years, no, decades ahead of anything we have now. You're nothing but a thirteen-year-old kid. How did you do it?' Artemis thought for a second. What was he going to say? Sixteen months ago Butler took on a Lower Elements Police Retrieval squad and confiscated their fairy technology? Then he, Artemis, had taken the components and built this wonderful box? Hardly. 'Let's just say I'm a very smart boy, Mister Spiro.'
  10. 10. Spiro's eyes narrowed. 'Maybe not as smart as you'd like us to think. I want a demonstration.' 'Fair enough.' Artemis nodded. 'Do you have a mobile phone?' 'Naturally.' Spiro placed his mobile phone on the table. It was the latest Fission Chips model. 'Secure, I take it?' Spiro nodded arrogantly. 'Five hundred bit encryption. Best in its class. You're not getting into the Fission 400 without a code.' 'We shall see.' Artemis pointed the sensor at the handset. The screen instantly displayed an image of the mobile phone's workings. 'Download?' enquired a metallic voice from the speaker. 'Confirm.' In less than a second, the job was done. 'Download complete,' said the box, with a hint of smugness. Spiro was aghast. 'I don't believe it. That system cost twenty million dollars.' 'Worthless,' said Artemis, showing him the screen. 'Would you like to call home? Or maybe move some funds around? You really shouldn't keep your bank account numbers on a sim card.' The American thought for several moments. 'It's a trick,' he pronounced finally. 'You must've known about my phone. Somehow, don't ask me how, you got access to it earlier.' 'That is logical,' admitted Artemis. 'It's what I would suspect. Name your test.' Spiro cast his eyes around the restaurant, fingers drumming the tabletop. 'Over there,' he said, pointing to a video shelf above the bar. 'Play one of those tapes.' 'That's it?' 'It'll do, for a start.'
  11. 11. Arno Blunt made a huge show of flicking through the tapes, eventually selecting one without a label. He slapped it down on the table, bouncing the engraved silver cutlery into the air. Artemis resisted the urge to roll his eyes and placed the red box directly on to the tape's surface. An image of the cassette's innards appeared on the tiny plasma screen. 'Download?' asked the box. Artemis nodded. 'Download, compensate and play.' Again, the operation was completed in under a second. An old episode of an English soap crackled into life. 'DVD quality,' commented Artemis. 'Regardless of the input, the C Cube will compensate.' 'The what?' 'C Cube,' repeated Artemis. 'The name I have given my little box. A tad obvious, I admit. But appropriate. The cube that sees everything.' Spiro snatched the video cassette. 'Check it,' he ordered, tossing the tape to Arno Blunt. The bleached-blond bodyguard activated the bar's TV, sliding the video into its slot. Coronation Street flickered across the screen. The same show. Nowhere near the same quality. 'Convinced?' asked Artemis. The American tinkered with one of his many bracelets. 'Almost. One last test. I have a feeling that the government is monitoring me. Could you check it out?' Artemis thought for a moment, then addressed the red box again. 'Cube, do you read any surveillance beams concentrated on this building?' The machine whirred for a moment. 'The strongest ion beam is eighty kilometres due west, emanating from US satellite code number ST1132P. Registered to the Central Intelligence Agency. Estimated time of arrival, eight minutes. There are also several LEP probes connected to
  12. 12. . . .' Artemis hit the mute button before the Cube could continue. Obviously the computer's fairy components could pick up Lower Elements technology too. He would have to remedy that. In the wrong hands that information would be devastating to fairy security. 'What's the matter, kid? The box was still talking. Who are the LEP?' Artemis shrugged. 'No pay, no play, as you Americans say. One example is enough. The CIA no less.' 'The CIA,' breathed Spiro. 'They suspect me of selling military secrets. They've pulled one of their birds out of orbit, just to track me.' 'Or perhaps me,' noted Artemis. 'Perhaps you,' agreed Spiro. 'You're looking more dangerous by the second.' Arno Blunt chuckled derisively. Butler ignored it. One of them had to be professional. Spiro cracked his knuckles, a habit Artemis detested. 'We've got eight minutes, so let's get down to the nitty gritty, kid. How much for the box?' Artemis was not paying attention, distracted by the LEP information that the Cube had almost revealed. In a careless moment, he had nearly exposed his subterranean friends to exactly the kind of man who would exploit them. 'I'm sorry, what did you say?' 'I said, how much for the box?' 'Firstly, it's a Cube,' corrected Artemis. 'And secondly, it's not for sale.' Jon Spiro took a deep, shuddering breath. 'Not for sale? You brought me across the Atlantic to show me something you're not going to sell me? What's going on here?' Butler wrapped his fingers around the handle of a pistol in his waistband. Arno Blunt's hand disappeared behind his back. The tension cranked up another notch.
  13. 13. Artemis steepled his fingers. 'Mister Spiro. Jon. I am not a complete idiot. I realize the value of my Cube. There is not enough money in the world to pay for this particular item. Whatever you could give me, it would be worth a thousand per cent more in a week.' 'So what's the deal, Fowl?' asked Spiro, through gritted teeth. 'What are you offering?' 'I'm offering you twelve months. For the right price, I'm prepared to keep my Cube off the market for a year.' Jon Spiro toyed with his ID bracelet. A birthday present to himself. 'You'll suppress the technology for a year?' 'Correct. That should give you ample time to sell your stocks before they crash, and to use the profits to buy into Fowl Industries.' 'There is no Fowl Industries.' Artemis smirked. 'There will be.' Butler squeezed his employer's shoulder. It was not a good idea to bait a man like Jon Spiro. But Spiro hadn't even noticed the jibe. He was too busy calculating, twisting his bracelet like a string of worry beads. 'Your price?' he asked eventually. 'Gold. One metric ton,' replied the heir to the Fowl estate. 'That's a lot of gold.' Artemis shrugged. 'I like gold. It holds its value. And anyway, it's a pittance compared to what this deal will save you.' Spiro thought about it. At his shoulder, Arno Blunt continued staring at Butler. The Fowl bodyguard blinked freely: in the event of confrontation, dry eyeballs would only lessen his advantage. Staring matches were for amateurs. 'Let's say I don't like your terms,' said Jon Spiro. 'Let's say I decide to take your little gadget with me right now.'
  14. 14. Arno Blunt's chest puffed out another centimetre. 'Even if you could take the Cube,' said Artemis, smiling, 'it would be of little use to you. The technology is beyond anything your engineers have ever seen.' Spiro gave a thin, mirthless smile. 'Oh, I'm sure they could figure it out. Even if it took a couple of years, it won't matter to you. Not where you're going.' 'If I go anywhere, then the C Cube's secrets go with me. Its every function is coded to my voice patterns. It's quite a clever code.' Butler bent his knees slightly, ready to spring. 'I bet we could break that code. I got one helluva team assembled in Fission Chips.' 'Pardon me if I am unimpressed by your “one helluva team”,' said Artemis. 'Thus far you have been trailing several years behind Phonetix.' Spiro jumped to his feet. He did not like the P word. Phonetix was the only communications company whose stock was higher than Fission Chips's. 'OK, kid, you've had your fun. Now it's my turn. I have to go now, before the satellite beam gets here. But I'm leaving Mister Blunt behind.' He patted his bodyguard on the shoulder. 'You know what you have to do.' Blunt nodded. He knew. He was looking forward to it. For the first time since the meeting began, Artemis forgot about his lunch and concentrated completely on the situation at hand. This was not going according to plan. 'Mister Spiro. You cannot be serious. We are in a public place, surrounded by civilians. Your man cannot hope to compete with Butler. If you persist with these ludicrous threats, I will be forced to withdraw my offer, and will release the C Cube immediately.' Spiro placed his palms on the table. 'Listen, kid,' he whispered. 'I like you. In a couple of years, you could have been just like me. But did you ever put a gun to somebody's head and pull the trigger?' Artemis didn't reply. 'No?' grunted Spiro. 'I didn't think so. Sometimes that's all it takes. Guts. And you don't have
  15. 15. them.' Artemis was at a loss for words. Something that had only happened twice since his fifth birthday. Butler stepped in to fill the silence. Unveiled threats were more his area. 'Mister Spiro. Don't try to bluff us. Blunt may be big, but I can snap him like a twig. Then there's nobody between me and you. And, take my word for it, you don't want that.' Spiro's smile spread across his nicotine-stained teeth like a smear of treacle. 'Oh, I wouldn't say there's nobody between us.' Butler got that sinking feeling. The one you get when there are a dozen laser sights playing across your chest. They had been set up. Somehow Spiro had outmanoeuvred Artemis. 'Hey, Fowl?' said the American. 'I wonder how come your lunch is taking so long.' It was at that moment Artemis realized just how much trouble they were in. It all happened in a heartbeat. Spiro clicked his fingers and every single customer in En Fin drew a weapon from inside his or her coat. The eighty-year-old lady suddenly looked a lot more threatening with a revolver in her bony fist. Two armed waiters emerged from the kitchen wielding folding-stock machine guns. Butler never even had time to draw breath. Spiro tipped over the salt cellar. 'Check and mate. My game, kid.' Artemis tried to concentrate. There must be a way out. There was always a way out. But it wouldn't come. He had been hoodwinked. Perhaps fatally. No human had ever outsmarted Artemis Fowl. Then again, it only had to happen once. 'I'm going now,' continued Spiro, pocketing the C Cube, 'before that satellite beam shows up, and those other ones. The LEP, I've never heard of that particular agency. And as soon as I get this gizmo working they're going to wish they never heard of me. It's been fun doing business with you.' On his way to the door, Spiro winked at his bodyguard. 'You got six minutes, Arno. A dream come true, eh? You get to be the guy who took out the
  16. 16. great Butler.' He turned back to Artemis, unable to resist a final jibe. 'Oh, and by the way – Artemis, isn't that a girl's name?' And he was gone, into the multicultural throngs of tourists on the high street. The old lady locked the door behind him. The click echoed around the restaurant. Artemis decided to take the initiative. 'Now, ladies and gentlemen,' he said, trying to avoid staring down the black-eyed gun barrels. 'I'm sure we can come to an arrangement.' 'Quiet, Artemis!' It took a moment for Artemis's brain to process the fact that Butler had ordered him to be silent. Most impertinently in fact. 'I beg your pardon . . .” Butler clamped a hand over his employer's mouth. 'Quiet, Artemis. These people are professionals, not to be bargained with.' Blunt rotated his skull, cracking the tendons in his neck. 'You got that right, Butler. We're here to kill you. As soon as Mister Spiro got the call we started sending people in. I can't believe you fell for it, man. You must be getting old.' Butler couldn't believe it either. There was a time when he would have staked out any rendezvous site for a week before giving it the thumbs-up. Maybe he was petting old, but there was an excellent chance he wouldn't be getting any older. 'OK, Blunt,' said Butler, stretching out his empty palms before him. 'You and me. One on one.' 'Very noble,' said Blunt. 'That's your Asian code of honour, I suppose. Me, I don't have a code. If you think I'm going to risk you somehow getting out of here, you're crazy. This is an uncomplicated deal. I shoot you. You die. No face-off, no duel.' Blunt reached lazily into his waistband. Why hurry? One move from Butler and a dozen bullets would find their mark. Artemis's brain seemed to have shut down. The usual stream of ideas had dried up. I'm going
  17. 17. to die, he thought. I don't believe it. Butler was saying something. Artemis decided he should listen. 'Richard of York gave battle in vain,' said the bodyguard, enunciating clearly. Blunt was screwing a silencer on to the muzzle of his ceramic pistol. 'What are you saying? What kind of gibberish is that? Don't say the great Butler is cracking up! Wait till I tell the guys.' But the old woman looked thoughtful. 'Richard of York . . . I know that.' Artemis knew it too. It was virtually the entire verbal detonation code for the fairy sonix grenade magnetized to the underside of the table. One of Butler's little security devices. All they needed was one more word and the grenade would explode, sending a solid wall of sound charging through the building, blowing out every window and eardrum. There would be no smoke or flames, but anyone within a ten-metre radius not wearing earplugs had about five seconds before severe pain set in. One more word. The old lady scratched her head with the revolver's barrel. 'Richard of York? I remember now, the nuns taught us that in school. Richard of York gave battle in vain. It's one of those memory tricks. The colours of the rainbow.' Rainbow. The final word. Artemis remembered – just in time – to slacken his jaw. If his teeth were clenched, the sonic waves would shatter them like sugar glass. The grenade detonated in a blast of compressed sound, instantaneously hurling eleven people to the furthest extremities of the room, until they came into contact with various walls. The lucky ones hit partitions and went straight through. The unlucky ones collided with cavity block walls. Things broke. Not the blocks. Artemis was safe in Butler's bear-hug. The bodyguard had anchored himself against a solid door frame, folding the flying boy into his arms. And they had several other advantages over Spiro's assassins: their teeth were intact, they did not suffer from any compound fractures and the sonic filter sponges had sealed, saving their eardrums from perforation. Butler surveyed the room. The assassins were all down, clutching their ears. They wouldn't be
  18. 18. uncrossing their eyes for several days. The manservant drew his Sig Sauer pistol from a shoulder holster. 'Stay here,' he commanded. 'I'm going to check the kitchen.' Artemis settled back into his chair, drawing several shaky breaths. All around was a chaos of dust and moans. But once again, Butler had saved them. All was not lost. It was even possible that they could catch Spiro before he left the country. Butler had a contact in Heathrow Security: Sid Commons, an ex-Green Beret he'd served with on bodyguard duty in Monte Carlo. A large figure came into view, blocking out the sunlight. It was Butler, returned from his reconnoitre. Artemis breathed deeply, feelingly uncharacteristically emotional. 'Butler,' he began. 'We really must talk regarding your salary . . .' But it wasn't Butler. It was Arno Blunt. He had something in each hand. On his left palm, two tiny cones of yellow foam. 'Ear plugs,' he spat through broken teeth. 'I always wear 'em before a fire fight. Good thing too, eh?' In his right hand, Blunt held a silenced pistol. 'You first,' he said. 'Then the ape.' Arno Blunt cocked the gun, took aim briefly and fired.
  19. 19. CHAPTER 2: LOCKDOWN HAVEN CITY, THE LOWER ELEMENTS THOUGH Artemis did not intend it, the Cube's scan for surveillance beams was to have far-reaching repercussions. The search parameters were so vague that the Cube sent probes into deep space and, of course, deep underground. Below the surface, the Lower Elements Police were stretched to their limits following the recent goblin revolution. Three months after the attempted goblin takeover, most of the major players were in custody. But there were still isolated pockets of the B'wa Kell triad loping around Haven's tunnels with illegal Softnose lasers. Every available LEP officer had been drafted in to help with Operation Mop-Up before the tourist season got started. The last thing the city Council wanted was tourists spending their leisure gold in Atlantis because Haven's pedestrianized central plaza was not safe to wander through. Tourism, after all, accounted for eighteen per cent of the capital's revenue. Captain Holly Short was on loan from the Reconnaissance squad. Generally, her job was to fly to the surface on the trail of fairies who had ventured above ground without a visa. If even one renegade fairy got himself captured by the Mud People, then Haven ceased to be a haven. So until every gang goblin was licking his eyeballs in Howler's Peak correctional facility, Holly's duties were the same as every other LEP officer: rapid response to any B'wa Kell alert. Today she was escorting four rowdy goblin hoods to Police Plaza for processing. They had been found asleep in an insect delicatessen, stomachs distended after a night of gluttony. It was lucky for them that Holly had arrived when she did, because the deli's dwarf owner was on the point of lowering the scaly foursome into the deep-fat fryer. Holly's ride-along for Operation Mop-Up was Corporal Grub Kelp, little brother to the famous Captain Trouble Kelp, one of the LEP's most decorated officers. Grub, however, did not share his brother's stoic personality. 'I got a hangnail cuffing that last goblin,' said the junior officer, chewing on his thumb. 'Painful,' said Holly, trying to sound interested.
  20. 20. They were driving along a magnastrip to Police Plaza, with the perpetrators manacled in the rear of their LEP wagon. It wasn't actually a regulation wagon. The B'wa Kell had managed to burn out so many police vehicles during their short-lived revolution that the LEP had been forced to commandeer anything with an engine and room in the back for a few prisoners. In reality, Holly was piloting a curry van with the LEP acorn symbol spray-painted on the side. The motor-pool gnomes had simply bolted the serving hatch and removed the ovens. A pity they couldn't remove the smell. Grub studied his wounded thumb. 'Those cuffs have sharp edges. I should lodge a complaint.' Holly concentrated on the road, though the magnastrip did the steering for her. If Grub did lodge a complaint, it wouldn't be his first, or even his twentieth. Trouble's little brother found fault with everything, except himself. In this instance he was completely wrong: there were no sharp edges on the perspex vacuum cuffs. If there had been, a goblin might think to poke a hole in the other mitt and allow oxygen to reach his hand, and nobody wanted goblins hurling fireballs in the back of their vehicles. 'I know it sounds petty to lodge a complaint over hangnails, but no one could accuse me of being petty.' 'You! Petty! Perish the thought.' Grub puffed up his chest. 'After all, I am the only member of LEPretrieval One to have faced down the human, Butler.' Holly groaned loudly. This, she fervently hoped, would dissuade Grub from telling his Artemis Fowl war story yet again. It grew longer and more fantastical each time. In reality, Butler had let him go, as a fisherman would a minnow. But Grub was not about to take a hint. 'I remember it well,' he began melodramatically. 'It was a dark night.' And, as though his very words carried immeasurable magic, every light in the city went out. Not only that, but the magnastrip's power failed, leaving them stranded in the middle lane of a frozen highway. 'I didn't do that, did I?' whispered Grub.
  21. 21. Holly didn't answer, already halfway out of the wagon door. Overhead, the sun strips that replicated surface light were fading to black. In the last moments of half-light Holly squinted towards the Northern Tunnel and, sure enough, the door was sliding down, emergency lights revolving along its lower edge. Sixty metres of solid steel separating Haven from the outside world. Similar doors were dropping at strategic arches all over the city. Lockdown. There were only three reasons why the Council would initiate a city-wide lockdown: flood, quarantine, or discovery by the humans. Holly looked around her. Nobody was drowning; nobody was sick. So the Mud People were coming. Finally, every fairy's worst nightmare was coming true. Emergency lights flickered on overhead, the sun strips' soft white glow replaced by an eerie orange. Official vehicles would receive a burst of power from the magnastrip, enough to get them to the nearest depot. Ordinary citizens were not so lucky; they would have to walk. Hundreds stumbled from their automobiles, too scared to pro test. That would come later. 'Captain Short! Holly!' It was Grub. No doubt he would be lodging a complaint with someone. 'Corporal,' she said, turning back to the vehicle. 'This is no time for panic. We need to set an example . . .' The lecture petered out in her throat when she saw what was happening to the wagon. All LEP vehicles would have by now received the regulation ten-minute burst of power from the magnastrip to get them and their cargo to safety. This power would also keep the perspex cuffs vacuumed. Of course, as they weren't using an official LEP vehicle they hadn't been cleared for emergency power - - something the goblins obviously realized, because they were trying to burn their way out of the wagon. Grub stumbled from the cab, his helmet blackened by soot. 'The cuffs have popped open, so now they've started blasting the doors,' he panted, retreating to a safe distance. Goblins. Evolution's little joke. Pick the dumbest creatures on the planet and give them the ability to conjure fire. If the goblins didn't stop blasting the wagon's reinforced interior they would soon be encased in molten metal. Not a nice way to go, even if you were fireproof. Holly activated the amplifier in her LEP helmet. 'You there, in the wagon. Cease fire.
  22. 22. The vehicle will collapse and you will be trapped.' For several moments, smoke billowed from the vents. Then the vehicle settled on its axles. A face appeared at the grille, forked tongue slithering through the mesh. 'You think we're stupid, elf? We're gonna burn clean through this pile of junk.' Holly stepped closer, turning up the speakers. 'Listen to me, goblin. You are stupid, let's just accept that and move on. If you continue to fireball that vehicle, the roof will melt and fall on you like shells from a human gun. You may be fireproof, but are you bulletproof?' The goblin licked his lidless eyes, thinking it over. 'You lie, elf! We will blow a hole right through this prison. You will be next.' The wagon's panels began to lurch and buckle as the goblins renewed their attack. 'Not to worry,' said Grub, from a safe distance. 'The fire extinguishers will get them.' 'They would,' corrected Holly, 'if the fire extinguishers weren't connected to the main power grid, which is shut down.' A mobile food-preparation wagon such as this one would have to adhere to the strictest fire regulations before setting one magna wheel on the strip. In this case, several foam-packed extinguishers, which could submerge the entire interior in flame-retardant foam in a matter of seconds. The nice thing about the flame foam was that it hardened on contact with air, but the not-so-nice thing about flame foam was that the trip switch was connected to the magna strip. No power. No foam. Holly drew her Neutrino 2000 from its holster. 'I'll just have to trip this switch myself.' Captain Short sealed her helmet and climbed into the wagon's cab. She avoided touching metal wherever possible, because even though microfilaments in her LEP jumpsuit were designed to disperse extra heat, microfilaments didn't always do what they were designed to do. The goblins were on their backs, pumping fireball after fireball into the roof panels. 'Knock it off!' she ordered, pointing her laser's muzzle through the mesh. Three of the goblins ignored her. One, possibly the leader, turned his scaly face to the grille. Holly saw that he had eyeball tattoos. This act of supreme stupidity probably would have guaranteed him promotion had the B'wa Kell not been effectively disbanded.
  23. 23. 'You will not be able to get us all, elf,' he said, smoke leaking from his mouth and slitted nostrils. 'Then one of us will get you.' The goblin was right, even if he didn't realize why. Holly suddenly remembered that she could not fire during a lockdown. Regulations stated that there were to be no unshielded power surges in case Haven was being probed. Her hesitation was all the proof the goblin needed. 'I knew it!' he crowed, tossing a casual fireball at the grille. The mesh glowed red, and sparks cascaded against Holly's visor. Over the goblins' heads, the roof sagged dangerously. A few more seconds and it would collapse. Holly undipped a piton dart from her belt, screwing it into the launcher above the Neutrino's main barrel. The launcher was spring-loaded, like an old-fashioned spear gun, and would not give off a heat flash: nothing to alarm any sensors. The goblin was highly amused, as goblins often are just before incarceration, which explains why so many are incarcerated. 'A dart? You going to prod us all to death, little elf?' Holly aimed at a clip protruding from the fire-foam nozzle in the rear of the wagon. 'Would you please be quiet?' she said, and launched the dart. It flew over the goblin's head, jamming itself between the rods of the nozzle clip; the piton cord stretched the length of the wagon. 'Missed me,' said the goblin, waggling his forked tongue. It was a testament to the goblin's stupidity that he could be trapped in a melting vehicle during a lockdown with an LEP officer firing at him, and still think he had the upper hand. 'I told you to be quiet!' said Holly, pulling sharply on the piton cord and snapping the clip. Eight hundred kilograms of extinguisher foam blasted from the diffuser nozzle at over two hundred miles per hour. Needless to say, all fireballs went out. The goblins were pinned down by the force of the already hardening foam. The leader was pressed so forcibly against the grille that his tattooed eyes were easily legible. One said 'Mummy', the other 'Duddy'. A misspelling, though he probably didn't know it.
  24. 24. 'Ow,' he said. More from disbelief than pain. He didn't say anything else, because his mouth was full of congealing foam. 'Don't worry,' said Holly. 'The foam is porous, so you will be able to breathe, but it's also completely fireproof, so good luck trying to burn your way out.' Grub was still examining his hangnail when Holly emerged from the van. She removed her helmet, wiping the soot from the visor with the sleeve of her jumpsuit. It was supposed to be non-stick; maybe she should send it in for another coating. 'Everything all right?' asked Grub. 'Yes, Corporal. Everything is all right. No thanks to you.' Grub had the audacity to look offended. 'I was securing the perimeter, Captain. We can't all be action heroes.' That was typical Grub, an excuse for every occasion. She could deal with him later. Now it was vital that she get to Police Plaza and find out why the Council had shut down the city. 'I think we should get back to HQ,' Grub offered. 'The intelligence boys might want to interview me if the humans are invading.' 'I think I should get back to HQ,' said Holly. 'You stay here and keep an eye on the suspects until the power comes back on. Do you think you can handle that? Or are you too incapacitated with that hangnail?' Holly's auburn hair stood in sweat-slicked spikes, and her round hazel eyes dared Grub to argue. 'No, Holly . . . Captain. You leave it to me. Everything is under control.' I doubt it, thought Holly, setting off at a run towards Police Plaza. The city was in complete chaos. Every citizen was on the street staring at his or her dead appliance in disbelief. For some of the younger fairies, the loss of their mobile phones was too much to bear. They sank to the streets, sobbing gently.
  25. 25. Police Plaza was mobbed by enquiring minds, like moths drawn to a light. In this case, one of the only lights in town. Hospitals and emergency vehicles would still have juice but, otherwise, the LEP headquarters was the only government building still functioning. Holly forced her way through the crowd, into the lobby area. The public service queues ran down the steps and out the door. Today everyone was asking the same question: What's happened to the power? The same question was on Holly's lips as she burst into the Situations booth, but she kept it to herself. The room was already packed with the force's complement of captains, along with the three regional commanders and all seven Council members. 'Aaah,' said Chairman Cahartez. 'The last captain.' 'I didn't get my emergency juice,' explained Holly. 'Non-regulation vehicle.' Cahartez adjusted his official conical hat. 'No time for excuses, Captain, Mister Foaly has been holding off on his briefing until you got here.' Holly took her seat at the captain's table, beside Trouble Kelp. 'Grub OK?' he whispered. 'He got a hangnail.' Trouble rolled his eyes. 'No doubt he'll make a complaint.' The centaur Foaly trotted through the doors, clutching armfuls of disks. Foaly was the LEP's technical genius, and his security innovations were the main reason why humans had not yet discovered the subterranean fairy hideaway. Maybe that was about to change. The centaur expertly loaded the disks on to the operating system, opening several windows on a wall-size plasma screen. Various complicated-looking algorithms and wave patterns appeared on the screen. He cleared his throat noisily. 'I advised Chairman Cahartez to initiate lockdown on the basis of these readings.' Recon's Commander Root sucked on an unlit fungus cigar. 'I think I'm speaking for the whole room here, Foaly, when I say that all I see is lines and squiggles. Doubtless it makes sense to a
  26. 26. smart pony like yourself, but the rest of us are going to need some plain Gnommish.' Foaly sighed. 'Simply put. Really simply. We got pinged. Is that plain enough?' It was. The room resonated with stunned silence. Pinged was an old naval term from back in the days when sonar was the preferred method of detection. Getting pinged was slang for being detected. Someone knew the fairy folk were down here. Root was the first to recover his voice. 'Pinged. Who pinged us?' Foaly shrugged. 'Don't know. It only lasted a few seconds. There was no recognizable signature, and it was untraceable.' 'What did they get?' 'Quite a bit. Everything North European. Scopes, Sentinel. All our cam-cams. Downloaded information on every one of them.' This was catastrophic news. Someone or something knew all about fairy surveillance in Northern Europe, after only a few seconds. 'Was it human,' asked Holly, 'or alien?' Foaly pointed to a digital representation of the beam. 'I can't say for certain. If it is human, it's something brand new. This came out of nowhere. No one has been developing technology like this as far as I know. Whatever it is, it read us like an open book. My security encryptions folded like they weren't even there.' Cahartez took off his official hat, no longer concerned with protocol. 'What does this mean for the People?' 'It's difficult to say. There are best and worst case scenarios. Our mysterious guest could learn all about us whenever he wishes and do with our civilization what he will.' 'And the best case scenario?' asked Trouble. Foaly took a breath. 'That was the best case scenario.'
  27. 27. Commander Root called Holly into his office. The room stank of cigar smoke in spite of the purifier built into the desk. Foaly was already there, his fingers a blur over the commander's keyboard. 'The signal originated in London somewhere,' said the centaur. 'We only know that because I happened to be looking at the monitor at the time.' He leaned back from the keyboard, shaking his head. 'This is incredible. It's some kind of hybrid technology. Almost like our ion systems, but not quite – just a hair's breadth away.' 'The how is not important now,' said Root. 'It's the who I'm worried about.' 'What can I do, sir?' asked Holly. Root stood and walked to a map of London on the wall plasma screen. 'I need you to sign out a surveillance pack, go topside and wait. If we get pinged again, I want someone on site, ready to go. We can't record this thing, but we can certainly get a visual on the signal. As soon as it shows up on the screen we'll feed you the coordinates and you can investigate.' Holly nodded. 'When is the next hotshot?' Hotshot was LEP-speak for the magma flares that Recon officers ride to the surface in titanium eggs. Pod pilots referred to this seat-of-the-pants procedure as 'Riding the Hotshots'. 'No such luck,' replied Foaly. 'Nothing in the pipes for the next two days. You'll have to take a shuttle.' 'What about the lockdown?' 'I've restored power to Stonehenge and our satellite arrays. We'll have to risk it; you need to get above ground and we need to stay in contact. The future of our civilization could depend on it.' Holly felt the weight of responsibility settle on her shoulders. This future of our civilization thing was happening more and more lately.
  28. 28. CHAPTER 3: ON ICE EN FIN, KNIGHTSBRIDGE THE sonic blast from Butler's grenade had crashed through the kitchen door, sweeping aside stainless-steel implements like stalks of grass. The aquarium had shattered, leaving the flagstones slick with water, perspex and surprised lobsters. They skittered through the debris, claws raised. The restaurant staff were on the floor, bound and saturated, but alive. Butler did not untie them. He did not need hysteria right now. Time enough to deal with them once all threats had been neutralized. An assassin stirred, suspended halfway through a dividing wall. The manservant checked her eyes. They were crossed and unfocused. No threat there. Butler pocketed the old lady's weapon just the same. You couldn't be too careful – something he was learning all over again. If Madame Ko could have seen this afternoon's display, she would have had his graduation tattoo lasered for sure. The room was clear, but still something was bothering the bodyguard. His soldier's sense grated like two broken bones. Once again Butler flashed back to Madame Ko, his sensei from the Academy. The bodyguard's primary Junction is to protect his principal. The principal cannot be shot if you are standing in front of him. Madame Ko always referred to employers as principals. One did not become involved with principals. Butler wondered why this particular maxim had occurred to him. Out of the hundreds Madame Ko had drummed into his skull, why this one? It was obvious really. He had broken the first rule of personal protection by leaving his principal unguarded. The second rule: Do not develop an emotional attachment to the principal was pretty much in smithereens too. Butler had become so attached to Artemis that it was obviously beginning to affect his judgement. He could see Madame Ko before him, nondescript in her khaki suit, for all the world an ordinary Japanese housewife. But how many housewives of any nationality could strike so quickly that the air hissed? You are a disgrace, Butler. A disgrace to your name. It would better suit your talents to get a job mending shoes. Your principal has already been neutralized. Butler moved as though in a dream. The very air seemed to hold him back as he raced for the
  29. 29. kitchen doors. He knew what would have happened. Arno Blunt was a professional. Vain perhaps – a cardinal sin among bodyguards – but a professional nevertheless. Professionals always inserted earplugs if there was any danger of gunfire. The tiles were slick beneath his feet, but Butler compensated by leaning forward and digging his rubber-soled toes into the surface. His intact eardrums picked up irregular vibrations from the restaurant. Conversation. Artemis was speaking with someone. Arno Blunt, no doubt. It was already too late. Butler came through the service door at a speed that would have shamed an Olympian. His brain began calculating odds the moment pictures arrived from his retinas: Blunt was in the act of firing. Nothing could be done about that now. There was only one option. Without hesitation, Butler took it. In his right hand, Blunt held a silenced pistol. 'You first,' he said. 'Then the ape.' Arno Blunt cocked the gun, took aim briefly and fired. Butler came from nowhere. He seemed to fill the entire room, flinging himself in the bullet's path. From a greater distance, the Kevlar in his bulletproof vest might have held, but at point-blank range, the Teflon-coated bullet drilled through the waistcoat like a hot poker through snow. It entered Butler's chest a centimetre below the heart. It was a fatal wound. And this time Captain Short was not around to save him with her fairy magic. The bodyguard's own momentum, combined with the force of the bullet, sent Butler crashing into Artemis, pinning him to the dessert trolley. Nothing of the boy was visible, save one Armani loafer. Butler's breathing was shallow and his vision gone, but he was not dead yet. His brain's electricity was rapidly running out, but the bodyguard held on to a single thought: protect the principal. Arno Blunt drew a surprised breath, and Butler fired six shots at the sound. He would have been disappointed with the spread had he been able to see it. But one of the bullets found its mark, clipping Blunt's temple. Unconsciousness was immediate, concussion inevitable. Arno
  30. 30. Blunt joined the rest of his team, on the floor. Butler ignored the pain squashing his torso like a giant fist. Instead he listened for movement. There was nothing locally, just the scratch of lobster claws on the tiles. And if one of the lobsters decided to attack, Artemis was on his own. Nothing more could be done. Either Artemis was safe, or he was not. If not, Butler was in no condition to fulfil the terms of his contract. This realization brought tremendous calm. No more responsibility. Just his own life to live, for a few seconds at any rate. And anyway, Artemis wasn't just a principal. He was part of the bodyguard's life. His only true friend. Madame Ko might not like this attitude, but there wasn't much she could do about it now. There wasn't much anybody could do. Artemis had never liked desserts. And yet, he found himself submersed in eclairs, cheesecake and pavlova. His suit would be absolutely destroyed. Of course, Artemis's brain was only throwing up these facts so he could avoid thinking about what had happened. But a ninety-kilogram deadweight is a hard thing to ignore. Luckily for Artemis, Butler's impact had actually driven him through to the trolley's second shelf, while the bodyguard remained on the ice-cream ledge above. As far as Artemis could tell, the Black Forest gateau had cushioned his impact sufficiently to avoid serious internal injury. Still, he had no doubt that a visit to the chiropractor would be called for. Possibly for Butler too, though the man had the constitution of a troll. Artemis struggled out from underneath his manservant. With each movement, malignant cream horns exploded in his direction. 'Really, Butler,' grumbled the teenager. 'I must begin choosing my business associates more carefully. Hardly a day goes by when we aren't the victims of some plot.' Artemis was relieved to see Arno Blunt unconscious on the restaurant floor. 'Another villain dispatched. Good shooting, Butler, as usual. And one more thing, I have decided to wear a bulletproof vest to all future meetings. That should make your job somewhat easier, eh?'
  31. 31. It was at this point that Artemis noticed Butler's shirt. The sight knocked the air from his chest like an invisible mallet. Not the hole in the material, but the blood leaking from it. 'Butler, you're injured. Shot. But the Kevlar?' The bodyguard didn't reply, nor did he have to. Artemis knew science better than most nuclear physicists. Truth be told, he often posted lectures on the Internet under the pseudonym Emmsey Squire. Obviously the bullet's momentum had been too great for the jacket to withstand. It had possibly been coated with Teflon for extra penetration. A large part of Artemis wanted to drape his arms across the bodyguard's frame and cry as he would for a brother. But Artemis repressed that instinct. Now was the time for quick thinking. Butler interrupted his train of thought. 'Artemis . . . is that you?' he said, the words coming in short gasps. 'Yes, it's me,' answered Artemis, his voice trembling. 'Don't worry. Juliet will protect you. You'll be fine.' 'Don't talk, Butler. Lie still. The wound is not serious.' Butler spluttered. It was as close as he could get to a laugh. 'Very well, it is serious. But I will think of something. Just stay still.' With his last vestige of strength, Butler raised a hand. 'Goodbye, Artemis,' he said. 'My friend.' Artemis caught the hand. The tears were streaming now. Unchecked. 'Goodbye, Butler.' The Eurasian's sightless eyes were calm. 'Artemis, call me – Domovoi.' The name told Artemis two things. Firstly, his lifelong ally had been named after a Slavic guardian spirit. Secondly, graduates of the Madame Ko Academy were instructed never to reveal first names to their principals. It helped to keep things clinical. Butler would never have broken this rule . . . unless it no longer mattered.
  32. 32. 'Goodbye, Domovoi,' sobbed the boy. 'Goodbye, my friend.' The hand dropped. Butler was gone. 'No!' shouted Artemis, staggering backwards. This wasn't right. This was not the way things should end. For some reason, he had always imagined that they would die together -- facing insurmountable odds, in some exotic location. On the lip of a reactivated Vesuvius perhaps, or on the banks of the mighty Ganges. But together, as friends. After all they had been through, Butler simply could not be defeated at the hands of some grandstanding second-rate muscleman. Butler had almost died before. The year before last, he had been mauled by a troll from the deep tunnels below Haven City. Holly Short had saved him then, using her fairy magic. But now there were no fairies around to save the bodyguard. Time was the enemy here. If Artemis had more of it, he could figure out how to contact the LEP and persuade Holly to use her magic once again. But time was running out. Butler had perhaps four minutes before his brain shut down. Not long enough, even for an intellect such as Artemis's – he needed to buy some more time. Or steal some. Think, boy, think. Use what the situation provides. Artemis shut off the wellspring of tears. He was in a restaurant, a fish restaurant. Useless! Worthless! Perhaps in a medical facility he could do something. But here? What was here? An oven, sinks, utensils. Even if he did have the proper tools, he had not yet completed his medical studies. It was too late for conventional surgery at any rate – unless there was a method of heart transplant that took less than four minutes. The seconds were ticking by. Artemis was growing angry with himself. Time was against them. Time was the enemy. Time needed to be stopped. The idea sparked in Artemis's brain in a flash of neurons. Perhaps he couldn't stop time, but he could halt Butler's passage through it. The process was risky, certainly, but it was the only chance they had. Artemis popped the dessert trolley's brake with his foot, and began hauling the contraption towards the kitchen. He had to pause several times to drag moaning assassins from the vehicle's path. Emergency vehicles were approaching, making their way down Knightsbridge. Obviously the sonic grenade's detonation would have attracted attention. There were only moments left before he would have to fabricate some plausible story for the authorities . . . Better not to be there . . .
  33. 33. Fingerprints wouldn't be a problem, as the restaurant would have had dozens of customers. All he had to do was get out of there before London's finest arrived. The kitchen was forged from stainless steel. Hobs, hoods and work surfaces were littered with fallout from the sonic grenade. Fish flapped in the sink, crustaceans clicked across the tiles and beluga dripped from the ceiling. There! At the back, a line of freezers, essential in any seafood bistro. Artemis put his shoulder against the trolley, steering it to the rear of the kitchen. The largest of the freezers was of the custom-built pull-out variety, often found in large restaurants. Artemis hauled open the drawer, quickly evicting the salmon, sea bass and hake that were encrusted in the ice shavings. Cryogenics. It was their only chance. The science of freezing a body until medicine had evolved sufficiently to revive it. Generally dismissed by the medical community, it nevertheless made millions each year from the estates of rich eccentrics who needed more than one lifetime to spend their money. Cryogenic chambers were generally built to very exact specifications, but there was no time for Artemis's usual standards now. This freezer would have to do as a temporary solution. It was imperative that Butler's head be cooled to preserve the brain cells. So long as his brain functions were intact, he could theoretically be revived, even if there were no heartbeat. Artemis manoeuvred the trolley until it overhung the open freezer; then, with the help of a silver platter, he levered Butler's body into the steaming ice. It was tight, but the bodyguard fitted with barely a bend of the legs. Artemis heaped loose ice on top of his fallen comrade, and then adjusted the thermostat to four below zero to avoid tissue damage. Butler's blank face was just visible through a layer of ice. 'I'll be back,' the boy said. 'Sleep well.' The sirens were close now. Artemis heard the screech of tyres. 'Hold on, Domovoi,' whispered Artemis, closing the freezer drawer. Artemis left through the back door, mingling with the crowds of locals and sightseers. The police would have someone photographing the crowd, so he did not linger at the cordon, or even
  34. 34. glance back towards the restaurant. Instead, he made his way to Harrods and found himself a table at the gallery cafe. Once he had assured the waitress that he was not looking for his mummy, and produced sufficient cash to pay for his pot of Earl Grey tea, Artemis pulled out his mobile, selecting a number from the speed-dial menu. A man answered on the second ring. 'Hello. Make it quick, whoever you are. I'm very busy at the moment.' The man was Detective Inspector Justin Barre of New Scotland Yard. Barre's gravelly tones were caused by a hunting knife across the gullet during a bar fight in the nineties. If Butler hadn't been on hand to stop the bleeding, Justin Barre would never have risen beyond Sergeant. It was time to call in the debt. 'Detective Inspector Barre. This is Artemis Fowl.' 'Artemis, how are you? And how's my old partner, Butler?' Artemis kneaded his forehead. 'Not well at all, I'm afraid. He needs a favour.' 'Anything for the big man. What can I do?' 'Did you hear something about a disturbance in Knightsbridge?' There was a pause. Artemis heard paper rip as a fax was torn off the roll. 'Yes, it just came in. A couple of windows were shattered in some restaurant. Nothing major. Some tourists are a bit shell-shocked. Preliminary reports say it was some kind of localized earthquake, if you can believe that. We've got two cars there right now. Don't tell me Butler was behind it?' Artemis took a breath. 'I need you to keep your men away from the freezers.' 'That's a strange request, Artemis. What's in the freezers that I shouldn't see?' 'Nothing illegal,' promised Artemis. 'Believe me when I say this is life or death for Butler.' Barre didn't hesitate. 'This is not exactly in my jurisdiction, but consider it done. Do you need to get whatever I'm not supposed to see out of the freezers?'
  35. 35. The officer had read his mind. 'As soon as possible. Two minutes are all I need.' Barre chewed it over. 'OK. Let's synchronize schedules. The forensics team is going to be in there for a couple of hours. Nothing I can do about that. But at six-thirty precisely, I can guarantee there won't be anyone on duty. You have five minutes.' 'That will be more than sufficient.' 'Good. And tell the big man that we're quits.' Artemis kept his voice even. 'Yes, Detective Inspector. I'll tell him.' If I get the opportunity, he thought. ICE AGE CRYOGENICS INSTITUTE, OFF HARLEY STREET, LONDON The Ice Age Cryogenics Institute was not actually on London's Harley Street. Technically, it was tucked away in Dickens Lane, a side alley on the famous medical boulevard's southern end. But this did not stop the facility's MD, one Doctor Constance Lane, from putting Harley Street on all Ice Age stationery. You couldn't buy credibility like that. When the upper classes saw those magic words on a business card they fell over themselves to have their frail frames frozen. Artemis Fowl was not so easily impressed. But then he had little choice; Ice Age was one of three cryogenic centres in the city, and the only one with free units. Though Artemis did consider the neon sign a bit much: 'Pods to Rent'. Honestly. The building itself was enough to make Artemis squirm. The facade was lined with brushed aluminium, obviously designed to resemble a spaceship, and the doors were of the whoosh Star Trek variety. Where was culture? Where was art? How did a monstrosity like this get planning permission in historic London? A nurse, complete with white uniform and three-pointed hat, was manning the reception. Artemis doubted she was an actual nurse – something about the cigarette between her false nails. 'Excuse me, miss?' The nurse barely glanced up from her gossip magazine. 'Yes? Are you looking for someone?' Artemis clenched his fists behind his back.
  36. 36. 'Yes, I would like to see Doctor Lane. She is the surgeon, is she not?' The nurse ground out her cigarette in an overflowing ashtray. 'This is not another school project, is it? Doctor Lane says no more projects.' 'No. Not another school project.' 'You're not a lawyer, are you?' asked the nurse suspiciously. 'One of those geniuses who gets a degree while they're still in nappies?' Artemis sighed. 'A genius, yes. A lawyer, hardly. I am, mademoiselle, a customer.' And suddenly the nurse was all charm. 'Oh, a customer! Why didn't you say so? I'll show you right in. Would sir care for tea, coffee or perhaps something stronger?' 'I am thirteen years old, mademoiselle.' 'A juice?' 'Tea would be fine. Earl Grey if you have it. No sugar, obviously; it might make me hyperactive.' The nurse was quite prepared to accept sarcasm from an actual paying customer, and directed Artemis to a lounge where the style was, again, space age. Plenty of shining velour and eternity mirrors. Artemis had half finished a cup of something that was most definitely not Earl Grey when Doctor Lane's door swung open. 'Do come in,' said a tall woman uncertainly. 'Shall I walk?' asked Artemis. 'Or will you beam me up?' The office walls were lined with frames. Along one side were the doctor's degrees and certificates. Artemis suspected that many of these certificates could be obtained over the weekend. Along the wall were several photographic portraits. Above these read the legend 'Love Lies Sleeping'. Artemis almost left then, but he was desperate.
  37. 37. Doctor Lane sat behind her desk. She was a very glamorous woman, with flowing red hair and the tapered fingers of an artist. Her smock was Dior. Even Constance Lane's smile was perfect too perfect. Artemis looked closer and realized that her entire face was the handiwork of a plastic surgeon. Obviously, this woman's life was all about cheating time. He had come to the right place. 'Now, young man, Tracy says you wish to become a customer?' The doctor tried to smile, but the stretching made her face shine like a balloon. 'Not personally, no,' replied Artemis. 'But I do wish to rent one of your units. Short term.' Constance Lane pulled a company pamphlet from the drawer, ringing some figures in red. 'Our rates are quite steep.' Artemis did not even glance at the numbers. 'Money is no object. We can set up a wire transfer right now from my Swiss bank. In five minutes you can have a hundred thousand pounds sitting in your personal account. All I need is a unit for a single night.' The figure was impressive. Constance thought of all the nips and tucks it would buy. But she was still reluctant . . . 'Generally minors are not allowed to commit relatives to our chambers. It's the law actually.' Artemis leaned forward. 'Doctor Lane. Constance. What I'm doing here is not exactly legal, but no one is being hurt either. One night and you're a rich woman. This time tomorrow and I was never here. No bodies, no complaints.' The doctor's hand fingered her jaw line. 'One night?' 'Just one. You won't even know we're here.' Constance took a hand mirror from her desk drawer, studying her reflection closely. 'Call your bank,' she said.
  38. 38. STONEHEHGE, WILTSHIRE Two LEP chutes emerged in the south of England. One in London itself, but that was closed to the public due to the fact that Chelsea Football Club had built their grounds five hundred metres above the shuttle port. The other port was in Wiltshire, beside what humans referred to as Stonehenge. Mud People had several theories as to the origins of the structure. These ranged from spaceship landing port to pagan centre of worship. The truth was far less glamorous. Stonehenge had actually been an outlet for a flat-bread-based food. Or, in human terms, a pizza parlour. A gnome called Bog had realized how many tourists forgot their sandwiches on above-ground jaunts, and so had set up shop beside the terminal. It was a smooth operation. You drove up to one of the windows, named your toppings, and ten minutes later you were stuffing your face. Of course, Bog had to shift his operation below ground once humans began talking in full sentences. And anyway, all that cheese was making the ground soggy. A couple of the service windows had even collapsed. It was difficult for fairy civilians to get visas to visit Stonehenge because of the constant activity on the surface. Then again, hippies saw fairies every day and it never made the front page. As a police officer, Holly didn't have a visa problem; one flash of the Recon badge opened a hole right through to the surface. But being a Recon officer didn't help if there was no magma flare scheduled. And the Stonehenge chute had been dormant for over three centuries. Not a spark. In the absence of a hotshot to ride, Holly was forced to travel aboard a commercial shuttle. The first available shuttle was heavily booked, but luckily there was a late cancellation so Holly wasn't forced to bump a passenger. The shuttle was a fifty-seater luxury cruiser. It had been commissioned especially by the Brotherhood of Bog to visit their patron's site. These fairies, mostly gnomes, dedicated their lives to pizza and every year on the anniversary of Bog's first day in business, they chartered a shuttle and took a picnic above ground. The picnic consisted of pizza, tuber beer and pizza-flavoured ice cream. Needless to say, they did not remove their rubber pizza bonnets for the entire day. So, for sixty-seven minutes, Holly sat wedged between two beer-swilling gnomes singing the pizza song:
  39. 39. Pizza, pizza, Fill up your face, The thicker the pastry, The better the base! There were a hundred and fourteen verses. And it didn't get any better. Holly had never been happier to see the Stonehenge landing lights. The actual terminal was pretty comprehensive, boasting a three-lane visa clearance booth, entertainment complex and duty-free shopping. The current souvenir craze was a Mud Man hippy doll that said, 'Peace, man,' when you pressed its tummy. Holly badged her way through the customs queue, taking a security elevator to the surface. Stonehenge had become easier to exit recently, because the Mud People had put up fencing. The humans were protecting their heritage, or so they thought. Strange that Mud People seemed more concerned about the past than the present. Holly strapped on her wings, and once the control booth had given her the go-ahead, she cleared the airlock, soaring to a height of seven thousand feet. There was plenty of cloud cover, but nevertheless she activated her shield. Nothing could spot her now; she was invisible to human and mechanical eyes. Only rats and two species of monkey could see through a fairy shield. Holly switched on the on-board navigator in the wings' computer and let the rig do the steering for her. It was nice to be above ground again, and at sunset too. Her favourite time of day. A slow smile spread across her face. In spite of the situation, she was content. This was what she was born to do. Recon. With the wind against her visor and a challenge between her teeth. KNIGHTSBRIDGE, LONDON It had been almost two hours since Butler had been shot. Generally the grace period between
  40. 40. heart failure and brain damage is about four minutes, but that period can be extended if the patient's body temperature is lowered sufficiently. Drowning victims, for example, can be resuscitated for up to an hour after their apparent death. Artemis could only pray that his makeshift cryogenic chamber could hold Butler in stasis until he could be transferred to one of Ice Age's pods. Ice Age Cryogenics had a mobile unit for transporting clients from the private clinics where they expired. The van was equipped with its own generator and full surgery. Even if cryogenics was considered crackpot medicine by many physicians, the vehicle itself would meet the strictest standards of equipment and hygiene. 'These units cost almost a million pounds apiece,' Doctor Constance Lane informed Artemis, as they sat in the stark white surgery. A cylindrical cryo pod was strapped to a trolley between them. 'The vans are custom-made in Munich, specially armoured too. This thing could drive over a landmine and come out smiling.' For once, Artemis was not interested in gathering information. 'That's very nice, Doctor, but can it go any faster? My associate's time is running out. It has already been one hundred and twenty seven-minutes.' Constance Lane tried to frown, but there wasn't enough slack skin across her brow. 'Two hours. Nobody has ever been revived after that long. Then again, no one has ever been revived from a cryogenic chamber.' The Knightsbridge traffic was, as usual, chaotic. Harrods was running a one-day sale, and the block was crowded with droves of tired customers on their way home. It took a further seventeen minutes to reach En Fin's delivery entrance and, as promised, there were no policemen present, except one. Detective Inspector Justin Barre himself was standing sentry at the rear door. The man was huge, a descendant of the Zulu nation, according to Butler. It was not difficult to imagine him at Butler's side in some faraway land. Incredibly, they found a parking space, and Artemis climbed down from the van. 'Cryogenics,' said Barre, noting the vehicle's inscription. 'Do you think you can do anything for him?'
  41. 41. 'You looked in the freezer then?' said Artemis. The officer nodded. 'How could I resist? Curiosity is my business. I'm sorry I checked now; he was a good man.' 'Is a good man,' insisted Artemis. 'I am not ready to give up on him yet.' Barre stood aside to admit two uniformed Ice Age paramedics. 'According to my men, a group of armed bandits attempted to rob the establishment, but they were interrupted by an earthquake. And if that's what really happened, I'll eat my badge. I don't suppose you can throw any light on the situation?' 'A competitor of mine disagreed with a business strategy. It was a violent disagreement.' 'Who pulled the trigger?' 'Arno Blunt. A New Zealander. Bleached hair, rings in his ears, tattoos on his body and neck. Most of his teeth are missing.' Barre took a note. 'I'll circulate the description to the airports. You never know, we might catch him.' Artemis rubbed his eyes. 'Butler saved my life. The bullet was meant for me.' 'That's Butler all right,' said Barre, nodding. 'If there's anything I can do . . . ?' 'You'll be the first to know,' said Artemis. 'Did your officers find anyone on the scene?' Barre consulted his notebook. 'Some customers and staff. They all checked out, so we let them go. The thieves escaped before we arrived.' 'No matter. Better I deal with the culprits myself.' Barre made a concerted effort to ignore the activity in the kitchen behind him. 'Artemis, can you guarantee this is not going to come back to haunt me? Technically, we're looking at a homicide.' Artemis looked Barre in the eye, which was quite an effort.
  42. 42. 'Detective Inspector, no body, no case. And I guarantee that by tomorrow Butler will be alive and kicking. I shall instruct him to call you, if that would set your mind at rest.' 'It would.' The paramedics rolled Butler past on a trolley. A frosting of ice covered his face. Tissue damage was already turning his fingers blue. 'Any surgeon who could fix this would have to be a real magician!' Artemis glanced downwards. 'That's the plan, Detective Inspector. That's the plan.' Doctor Lane administered glucose injections in the van. 'These are to stop the cells collapsing,' she informed Artemis, massaging Butler's chest to circulate the medication. 'Otherwise the water in his blood will freeze in spikes and puncture the cell walls.' Butler was lying in an open cryo unit, with its own gyroscopes. He had been dressed in a special silver freezer suit, and cold packs were heaped on his body like sachets of sugar in a bowl. Constance was unaccustomed to people actually paying attention when she explained the process, but this pale youth absorbed facts faster than she could present them. 'Won't the water freeze anyway? Glucose can't prevent that.' Constance was impressed. 'Why, yes it will. But in small pieces, so it can float safely between cells.' Artemis jotted a note in his hand-held computer. 'Small pieces, I understand.' 'The glucose is only a temporary measure,' continued the doctor. 'The next step is surgery; we need to completely wash out his veins, and replace the blood with a preservative. Then we can lower the patient's temperature to minus thirty degrees. We'll have to do that back at the institute.'
  43. 43. Artemis shut down his computer. 'No need for that. I just need him held in stasis for a few hours. After that it won't make any difference.' 'I don't think you understand, young man,' said Doctor Lane. 'Current medical practices have not evolved to the point where this kind of injury can be healed. If I don't do a complete blood substitution soon, there will be severe tissue damage.' The van jolted as a wheel crashed into one of London's numerous potholes. Butler's arm jerked and, for a moment, Artemis could pretend he was alive. 'Don't worry about that, Doctor.' 'But. . .' 'A hundred thousand pounds, Constance. Just keep repeating that figure to yourself. Park the mobile unit outside and forget all about us. In the morning we'll be gone. Both of us.' Doctor Lane was surprised. 'Park outside?You don't even want to come in?' 'No, Butler stays outside,' said Artemis. 'My . . . ah . . . surgeon, has a problem with dwellings. But may I enter for a moment to use your phone? I need to make a rather special phone call.' LONDON AIRSPACE The lights of London were spread out below Holly like the stars of some turbulent galaxy. England's capital was generally a no-fly area for Recon officers, because of the four airports feeding planes into the sky. Five years ago, Captain Trouble Kelp had narrowly missed being impaled by a Heathrow-JFK airbus. Since then, all flight plans involving airport cities had to be cleared personally by Foaly. Holly spoke into her helmet mike. 'Foaly. Any flights coming in I should know about?' 'Let me just bring up the radar. OK, let's see. I'd drop down to five hundred feet if I were you. There's a 747 coming in from Malaga in a couple of minutes. It won't hit you, but your helmet computer could interfere with its navigation systems.' Holly dipped her flaps until she was at the correct altitude. Overhead, the giant jet screamed
  44. 44. across the sky. If it hadn't been for Holly's sonic filter sponges, both her eardrums would have popped. 'OK. One jet full of tourists successfully avoided. What now?' 'Now we wait. I won't call again unless it's important.' They didn't have to wait long. Less than five minutes later Foaly broke radio silence. 'Holly. We got something.' 'Another probe?' 'No. Something from Sentinel. Hold on, I'm sending the file to your helmet.' A sound file appeared in Holly's visor. Its wave resembled a seismograph's readout. 'What is it, a phone tap?' 'Not exactly,' said Foaly. 'It's one of a billion throwaway files that Sentinel sends us every day.' The Sentinel system was a series of monitoring units that Foaly had piggybacked to obsolete US and Russian satellites. Their function was to monitor all human telecommunications. Obviously, it would be impossible to review every phone call made each day. So the computer was programmed to pick up on certain key words. If, for example, the words 'fairy', 'haven' and 'underground' appeared in a conversation, the computer would flag the call. The more People-related phrases that appeared, the more urgent the rating. 'This call was made in London minutes ago. It's loaded with keywords. I've never heard anything like it.' 'Play,' said Holly clearly, using voice command. A vertical line cursor began scrolling across the sound wave. 'People,' said a voice, hazy with distortion. 'LEP, magic, Haven, shuttle ports, sprites, B'wa Kell, trolls, time-stop, Recon, Atlantis.' 'That's it?' 'That's not enough? Whoever made that call could be writing our biography.' 'But it's just a string of words. It makes no sense.'
  45. 45. 'Hey, there's no point arguing with me,' said the centaur. 'I just collect information. But there has to be a connection to the probe. Two things like this don't just happen on the same day.' 'OK. Do we have an exact location?' 'The call came from a cryogenics institute in London. Sentinel quality is not enough to run a voice-recognition scan. We just know it came from inside the building.' 'Who was our mystery Mud Man calling?' 'Strange thing. He was calling The Times newspaper crossword hotline.' 'Maybe those words were the answers to today's crossword?' said Holly hopefully. 'No. I checked the correct solution. Not a fairy-related word in sight.' Holly set her wings to manual. 'OK. Time to find out what our caller is up to. Send me the institute's coordinates.' Holly suspected that it was a false alarm. Hundreds of these calls came in every year. Foaly was so paranoid that he believed the Mud People were invading every time someone mentioned the word 'magic' on a phone line. And with the recent trend for human fantasy movies and video games, magical phrases cropped up quite a lot. Thousands of police hours were wasted staking out the dwellings of residents where these phone calls originated, and it usually turned out to be some kid playing on his PC. More than likely this phantom phone call was the result of a crossed line, or some Hollywood hack pitching a screenplay, or even an undercover LEP operative trying to phone home. But then, today of all days, everything had to be checked. Holly kicked up her legs behind her, dropping into a steep dive. Diving was against Recon regulations. All approaches were supposed to be controlled and gradual, but what was the point of flying if you couldn't feel the slipstream tugging at your toes? ICE AGE CRYOGENICS INSTITUTE, LONDON Artemis leaned against the cryogenics mobile unit's rear bumper. It was funny how quickly a person's priorities could change. This morning he had been worried about which loafers to wear with his suit, and now all he could think about was the fact that his dearest friend's life hung in the balance. And the balance was rapidly shifting.
  46. 46. Artemis wiped a coating of frost from the spectacles he'd retrieved from his bodyguard's jacket. These were no ordinary spectacles. Butler had 20/20 vision. These particular eye glasses had been specially tooled to accommodate filters taken from an LEP helmet. Anti-shield filters. Butler had carried them since Holly Short almost got the jump on him at Fowl Manor. 'You never know,' he'd said. 'We're a threat to LEP security, and some day Commander Root could be replaced with someone who isn't quite so fond of us.' Artemis wasn't convinced. The fairies were, by and large, a peaceful people. He couldn't believe they would harm anyone, even a Mud Person, on the basis of past crimes. After all, they had parted friends. Or, at least, not enemies. Artemis presumed the call would work – there was no reason to believe it wouldn't: several government security agencies monitored phone lines using the key word system, recording conversations that could compromise national security. And if humans were doing it, it was a safe bet that Foaly was two steps ahead. Artemis donned the glasses, climbing into the vehicle's cabin. He had placed the call ten minutes ago. Presuming Foaly got working on a trace straight away, it could still be another two hours before the LEP could get an operative on the surface. That would make it almost five hours since Butler's heart had stopped. The record for a revival was two hours and fifty minutes for an Alpine skier frozen in an avalanche. There had never been a revival after three hours. Maybe there shouldn't be. Artemis glanced at the tray of food sent out by Doctor Lane. Any other day he would have complained about virtually everything on the plate, but now the meal was simply sustenance to keep him awake until the cavalry arrived. Artemis took a long drink from a polystyrene cup of tea. It sloshed audibly around his empty stomach. Behind him, in the van's surgery, Butler's cryo unit hummed like a common household freezer. Occasionally the computer emitted electronic beeps and whirrs as the machine ran self-diagnostics. Artemis was reminded of the weeks spent in Helsinki waiting for his father to regain consciousness. Waiting to see what the fairy magic would do to him . . . EXCERPT FROM ARTEMIS FOWL'S DIARY. DISK 2. ENCRYPTED. Today my father spoke to me. For the first time in over two years I heard his voice, and it is exactly as I remembered it. But not everything was the same.
  47. 47. It had been over two months since Holly Short used her healing magic on his battered body, and still he lay in his Helsinki hospital bed. Immobile, unresponsive. The doctors could not understand it. 'He should be awake,' they informed me. 'His brainwaves are strong, exceptionally so. And his heart beats like a horse. It is incredible; this man should be at death's door, yet he has the muscle tone of a twenty-year-old.' Of course, it is no mystery to me. Holly's magic has overhauled my father's entire being, with the exception of his left leg, which was lost when his ship went down off the coast of Murmansk. He has received an infusion of life, body and mind. The effect of the magic on his body does not worry me, but I cannot help but wonder what effect this positive energy will have on my father's mind. For my father, a change like this could be traumatic. He is the Fowl patriarch, and his life revolves around moneymaking. For sixteen days we sat in my father's hospital room, waiting for some sign of life. I had, by then, learned to read the instruments and noticed immediately the morning that my father's brainwaves began spiking. My diagnosis was that he would soon regain consciousness, and so I called the nurse. We were ushered from the room to admit a medical team of at least a dozen. Two heart specialists, an anaesthetist, a brain surgeon, a psychologist and several nurses. In fact, my father had no need of medical attention. He simply sat up, rubbed his eyes and uttered one word: 'Angeline'. Mother was admitted. Butler, Juliet and I were forced to wait for several more agonizing minutes until she reappeared at the door. 'Come in, everyone,' she said. 'He wants to see you.' And suddenly I was afraid. My father, the man whose shoes I had been trying to fill for two years, was awake. Would he still live up to my expectations? Would I live up to his? I entered hesitantly. Artemis Fowl the First was propped up by several pillows. The first thing that I noticed was his face. Not the scar traces – which were already almost completely healed, but the expression. My father's brow, usually a thunderhead of moody contemplation, was smooth and carefree. After such a long time apart, I didn't know what to say. My father had no such doubts.
  48. 48. 'Arty,' he cried, stretching his arms towards me. 'You're a man now. A young man.' I ran into his embrace, and while he held me close all plots and schemes were forgotten. I had a father again. ICE AGE CRYOGENICS INSTITUTE, LONDON Artemis's memories were interrupted by a sly movement on the wall above. He peered out the rear window and fixed his gaze on the spot, watching through filtered eyes. There was a fairy crouching on a third-storey window sill: a Recon officer, complete with wings and helmet. After only fifteen minutes! His ruse had worked. Foaly had intercepted the call and sent someone to investigate. Now all that remained was to hope this particular fairy was full to the brim with magic and willing to help. This had to be handled sensitively. The last thing he wanted to do was spook the Recon officer. One wrong move and he'd wake up in six hours, with absolutely no recollection of the day's events. And that would be fatal for Butler. Artemis opened the van door slowly, stepping down into the yard. The fairy cocked its head, following his movements. To his dismay, Artemis saw the creature draw a platinum handgun. 'Don't shoot,' said Artemis, raising his hands. 'I am unarmed. And I need your help.' The fairy activated its wings, descending slowly until its visor was level with Artemis's eyes. 'Do not be alarmed,' continued Artemis. 'I am a friend to the People. I helped to defeat the B'wa Kell. My name is –' The fairy unshielded, her opaque visor sliding up. 'I know what your name is, Artemis,' said Captain Holly Short. 'Holly,' said Artemis, grasping her by the shoulders. 'It s you.' Holly shrugged off the human's hands. 'I know it's me. What's going on here? I presume you made the call?' 'Yes, yes. No time for that now. I can explain later.' Holly opened the throttle on her wings, rising to a height of four metres. 'No, Artemis. I want an explanation now. If you needed help, why didn't you call on your own phone?'
  49. 49. Artemis forced himself to answer the question. 'You told me that Foaly had pulled surveillance on my communications, and anyway I wasn't sure you'd come.' Holly considered it. 'OK. Maybe I wouldn't have.' Then she noticed. 'Where's Butler? Watching our backs as usual, I suppose.' Artemis didn't answer, but his expression told Holly exactly why the Mud Boy had summoned her. Artemis pressed a button, and a pneumatic pump opened the cryo pod's lid. Butler lay inside, encased in a centimetre of ice. 'Oh no,' sighed Holly. 'What happened?' 'He stopped a bullet that was meant for me,' replied Artemis. 'When are you going to learn, Mud Boy?' snapped the fairy. 'Your little schemes have a tendency to get people hurt. Usually the people who care about you.' Artemis didn't answer. The truth was the truth after all. Holly peeled away a cold pack from the bodyguard's chest. 'How long?' Artemis consulted the clock on his mobile phone. 'Three hours. Give or take a few minutes.' Captain Short wiped away the ice, laying her hand flat on Butler's chest. 'Three hours. I don't know, Artemis. There's nothing here. Not a flicker.' Artemis faced her across the cryo pod. 'Can you do it, Holly? Can you heal him?' Holly stepped back. 'Me? I can't heal him. We need a professional warlock to even attempt
  50. 50. something like this.' 'But you healed my father.' 'That was different. Your father wasn't dead. He wasn't even critical. I hate to say it, but Butler is gone. Long gone.' Artemis pulled a gold medallion from a leather thong around his neck. The disc was perforated by a single circular hole. Dead centre. 'Remember this? You gave it to me for ensuring your trigger finger got reattached to your hand. You said it would remind me of the spark of decency inside me. I'm trying to do something decent now, Captain.' 'It's not a question of decency. It just can't be done.' Artemis drummed his fingers on the trolley. Thinking. 'I want to talk to Foaly,' he said finally. 'I speak for the People, Fowl,' said Holly testily. 'We don't take orders from humans.' 'Please, Holly,' said Artemis. 'I can't just let him go. It's Butler.' Holly couldn't help herself. After all, Butler had saved all their hides on more than one occasion. 'Very well,' she said, fishing a spare com set from her belt. 'But he's not going to have any good news for you.' Artemis hooked the speaker over one ear, adjusting the mike stem so it wound across his mouth. 'Foaly? Are you listening?' 'Are you kidding?' came the reply. 'This is better than human soap operas.' Artemis composed himself. He would have to present a convincing case or Butler's last chance was gone. 'All I want is a healing. I accept that it may not work, but what does it cost to try?'
  51. 51. 'It's not that straightforward, Mud Boy,' replied the centaur. 'Healing isn't a simple process. It requires talent and concentration. Holly is pretty good, I grant you, but for something like this we need a trained team of warlocks.' 'There's no time,' snapped Artemis. 'Butler has already been under too long. This has to be done now, before the glucose is absorbed into his bloodstream. There is already tissue damage to the fingers.' 'Maybe his brain too?' suggested the centaur. 'No. I got his temperature down in minutes. The cranium has been frozen since the incident.' 'Are you sure about that? We don't want to bring Butler's body back and not his mind.' 'I'm sure. The brain is fine.' Foaly didn't speak for several moments. 'Artemis, if we agree to try this, I have no idea what the results would be. The effect on Butler's body could be catastrophic, not to mention his mind. An operation of this kind has never been attempted on a human.' 'I understand.' 'Do you, Artemis? Do you really? Are you prepared to accept the consequences of this healing? There could be any number of unforeseeable problems. Whatever emerges from this pod is yours to care for. Will you accept this responsibility?' 'I will,' said Artemis, without hesitation. 'Very well, then it's Holly's decision. Nobody can force her to use her magic – it's up to her.' Artemis lowered his eyes. He could not bring himself to look at the LEP elf. 'Well, Holly. Will you do it? Will you try?' Holly brushed the ice from Butler's brow. He had been a good friend to the People. 'I'll try,' she said. 'No guarantees, but I'll do what I can.' Artemis's knees almost buckled with relief. Then he was in control again. Time enough for
  52. 52. weak knees later. 'Thank you, Captain. I realize this could not be an easy decision to take. Now, what can I do?' Holly pointed to the rear doors. 'You can get out. I need a sterile environment. I'll come and get you when it's over. And whatever happens, whatever you hear, don't come in until I call.' Holly unclipped her helmet camera, suspending it from the cryo pod's lid to give Foaly a better view of the patient. 'How's that?' 'Good,' replied Foaly. 'I can see the whole upper body. Cryogenics. That Fowl is a genius, for a human. Do you realize that he had less than a minute to come up with this plan? That's one smart Mud Boy.' Holly scrubbed her hands thoroughly in the medi-sink. 'Not smart enough to keep himself out of trouble. I can't believe I'm doing this. A three-hour healing. This has got to be a first.' 'Technically it's only a two-minute healing, if he got the brain down to below zero straight away. But . . .” 'But what?' asked Holly, rubbing her fingers briskly with a towel. 'But the freezing interferes with the body's own bio-rhythms and magnetic fields – things even the People don't understand fully. There's more than skin and bone at stake here. We have no idea what a trauma like this could do to Butler.' Holly stuck her head under the camera. 'Are you sure this is a good idea, Foaly?' 'I wish we had time for discussion, Holly, but every second costs our old friend a couple of brain cells. I'm going to talk you through it. The first thing we need to do is to take a look at the wound.' Holly peeled off several cold packs, unzipping the foil suit. The entry wound was small and
  53. 53. black, hidden in the centre of a pool of blood, like a flower's bud. 'He never had a chance. Right under the heart. I'm going to zoom in.' Holly closed her visor, using the helmet's filters to magnify Butler's wound. 'There are fibres trapped in there. Kevlar, I'd say.' Foaly groaned over the speakers. 'That's all we need. Complications.' 'What difference do fibres make? And this really is not the time for jargon. I need plain Gnommish.' 'OK. Surgery for morons it is. If you poke your fingers into that wound, the magic will reproduce Butler's cells, complete with their new strands of Kevlar. He'll be dead, but completely bulletproof.' Holly could feel the tension creeping up her back. 'So, I need to do what?' 'You need to make a new wound, and let the magic spread from there.' Oh great, thought Holly, a new wound. Just slice open an old friend. 'But he's as hard as rock.' 'Well then, you're going to have to melt him down a little. Use your Neutrino 2000, low setting, but not too much. If that brain wakes up before we want it to, he's finished.' Holly drew her Neutrino, adjusting the output to minimum. 'Where do you suggest I melt?' 'The other pectoral. Be ready to heal; that heat is going to spread rapidly. Butler needs to be healed before oxygen gets to his brain.' Holly pointed the laser at the bodyguard's chest. 'Just say the word.' 'In a bit closer. Fifteen centimetres approximately. A two-second burst.'
  54. 54. Holly raised her visor, taking several deep breaths. A Neutrino 2000 being used as a medical instrument. Who would have thought it? Holly pulled her trigger to the first click. One more click would activate the laser. 'Two seconds.' 'OK. Go.' Click. An orange beam of concentrated heat spilled from the Neutrino's snout, blossoming across Butler's chest. Had the bodyguard been awake, he would have been knocked unconscious. A neat circle of ice evaporated, rising to condense on the surgery's ceiling. 'Now,' said Foaly, his voice high-pitched with urgency. 'Narrow the beam and focus it.' Holly manipulated the gun controls expertly with her thumb. Narrowing the beam would intensify its power, but the laser would have to be focused at a certain range to avoid slicing right through Butler's body. 'I'm setting it for fifteen centimetres.' 'Good, but hurry; that heat is spreading.' The colour had returned to Butler's chest and the ice was melting across his body. Holly pulled the trigger again, this time carving a crescent-shaped slit in Butler's flesh. A single drop of blood oozed from between the wound's edges. 'No steady flow,' said Foaly. 'That's good.' Holly bolstered her weapon. 'Now what?' 'Now get your hands in deep, and give it every drop of magic you've got. Don't just let it flow; push the magic out.' Holly grimaced. She never liked this bit. No matter how many healings she performed, she could never get used to sticking her fingers into other people's insides. She lined her thumbs up, back to back, and slid them into the incision. 'Heal,' she breathed, and the magic scurried down her fingers. Blue sparks hovered over Butler's wound, then disappeared inside, like shooting stars diving behind the horizon. 'More, Holly,' urged Foaly. 'Another shot.' Holly pushed again, harder. The flow was thick at first, a roiling mass of blue streaks; then, as her magic ebbed, the flow grew weaker. 'That's it,' she panted. 'I have barely enough left to shield on the way home.' 'Well then,' said Foaly, 'stand back until I tell you, because all hell is about to break loose.' Holly backed up to the wall. Nothing much happened for several moments, then Butler's back
  55. 55. arched, throwing his chest into the air. Holly heard a couple of vertebrae groaning. 'That's the heart started,' noted Foaly. 'The easy bit.' Butler flopped back into the pod, blood flowing from his most recent wound. The magical sparks knitted together, forming a vibrating lattice over the bodyguard's torso. Butler bounced on the trolley, like a bead in a rattle, as the magic reshaped his atoms. His pores vented mist as toxins were expelled from his system. The coating of ice around him dissolved instantly, causing clouds of steam and then rain, as the water particles condensed on the metal ceiling. Cold packs popped like balloons, sending crystals ricocheting around the surgery. It was like being in the centre of a multicoloured storm. 'You need to get in there now!' said Foaly in Holly's ear. 'What?' 'Get in there. The magic is spreading up his spinal column. Hold his head still for the healing, or any damaged cells could be replicated. And once something's been healed, we can't undo it.' Great, thought Holly. Hold Butler still. No problem. She battled her way through the debris, cold-pack crystals impacting against her visor. The human's frame continued thrashing in the cryo pod, shrouded by a cloud of steam. Holly clamped a hand on either side of Butler's head. The vibrations travelled the length of her arms and through her body. 'Hold him, Holly. Hold him!' Holly leaned across the pod, placing the weight of her body on the manservant's head. In all the confusion, she couldn't tell if her efforts were having any effect whatsoever. 'Here it comes!' said Foaly in her ear. 'Brace yourself!' The magical lattice spread along Butler's neck and across his face. Blue sparks targeted the eyes, travelling along the optic nerve, into the brain itself. Butler's eyes flew open, rolling in their sockets. His mouth was reactivated too, spewing out long strings of words in various languages, none of which made any sense. 'His brain is running tests,' said Foaly. 'Just to check everything's working.'
  56. 56. Each muscle and joint was tested to its limit, rolling, swivelling and stretching. Hair follicles grew at an accelerated rate, covering Butler's normally shaven dome with a thick growth of hair. Nails shot out of his fingers like tiger claws, and a raggedy beard snaked from his chin. Holly could only hang on. She imagined that this was how it must feel to be a rodeo cowboy straddling a particularly bad-tempered bull. Eventually the sparks dissipated, spiralling into the air like embers on a breeze. Butler calmed and settled, his body sinking into fifteen centimetres of water and coolant. His breathing was slow and deep. 'We did it,' said Holly, sliding off the pod on to her knees. 'He's alive.' 'Don't start celebrating just yet,' said Foaly. 'There's still a long way to go. He won't regain consciousness for a couple of days at least, and even then who knows what shape his mind will be in. And, of course, there's the obvious problem.' Holly raised her visor. 'What obvious problem?' 'See for yourself.' Captain Short was almost afraid to look at whatever lay in the pod. Grotesque images crowded her imagination. What kind of misshapen mutant human had they created? The first thing she noticed was Butler's chest. The bullet hole itself had completely disappeared, but the skin had darkened, with a red line amongst the black. It looked like a capital T. 'Kevlar,' explained Foaly. 'Some of it must have replicated. Not enough to kill him, thankfully, but enough to slow down his breathing. Butler won't be running any marathons with those fibres clinging to his ribs.' 'What's the red line?' 'At a guess, I'd say dye. There must have been writing on the original bulletproof jacket.' Holly glanced around the surgery. Butler's vest lay discarded in a corner. The letters 'FBI' were printed in red across the chest. There was a small hole in the centre of the'I'. 'Ah well,' said the centaur. 'It's a small price to pay for his life. He can pretend it's a tattoo.
  57. 57. They're very popular among the Mud People these days.' Holly had been hoping the Kevlar-reinforced skin was the 'obvious problem' to which Foaly had been referring. But there was something else. The something else became immediately apparent when her gaze landed on the bodyguard's face. Or, more accurately, the hair sprouting from his face. 'Oh gods,' she breathed. 'Artemis is not going to like this.' Artemis paced the yard while his bodyguard underwent magical surgery. Now that his plan was actually in progress, doubts began to chew at the edges of his mind, like slugs on a leaf. Was this the right thing to do? What if Butler wasn't himself? After all, his father had been undeniably different on the day he had finally come back to them. He would never forget that first conversation . . . EXCERPT FROM ARTEMIS FOWL'S DIARY. DISK 2. ENCRYPTED. The doctors in Helsinki were determined that they should pump my father full of vitamin supplements. He was just as determined that they shouldn't. And a determined Fowl usually gets his way. 'I am perfectly fine,' he insisted. 'Please allow me some time to reacquaint myself with my family.' The doctors withdrew, disarmed by his personality. I was surprised by this approach. Charm had never been my father's weapon of choice. He had previously achieved his aims by bulldozing over anybody stupid enough to stand in his way. Father was sitting in the hospital room's only armchair, his shortened leg resting on a footstool. My mother was perched on the armrest, resplendent in white faux fur. Father caught me looking at his leg. 'Don't worry, Arty,' he said. 'I'm being measured for a prosthetic tomorrow. Doctor Hermann Gruber is being flown in from Dortmund.' I had heard of Gruber. He worked with the German Paralympics squad. The best. 'I'm going to ask for something sporty. Maybe with speed stripes.'

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